I was in the studio last week, taking class from one of our wonderful instructors, Jessica. We'd pushed through almost an hour of sweat and labor, and now we were on the floor, leaning forward, stretching. Collapsing, if I'm being totally honest. But then Jess piped up over the mellow strains of Sam Smith, saying, "This is active." "Even while you're resting, you should be pushing yourself," she said. "One inch farther. You know you can do this, so you have to try." And so I reawakened my dormant muscles, and I reached out, and I felt a small and powerful click of rightness.
Stretching's pretty important, but I don't usually find it profound. After mulling it over for a few days, though. I think I know why that moment made such an impression.
We live in a culture of self-protection. We use so many cloaking devices, make so many risk-averse choices, that we cease to even see them for what they are. Headed to a workout? Show up in full Branded Attire. Alone in public? Pull out the cellphone. Hate your job? Tack kitten pictures to your cubicle wall and keep answering the phone. We put in what's required of us by other people, and then reserve the right to tune out when it's over. "You have to try." Says who? The path to moderate success is already pretty well paved, thank you very much. It's a decent life to show up to work and then show up to brunch. Not everyone has to be a world-beater.
And that is kind of true--especially if the brunch has bacon--and also completely not the point.
The point is: growth is a fundamental human need. It doesn't matter where you start. It's the act of moving toward a goal that tells us that we are alive, because the alternative is stagnation. When you make an affirmative choice to change, when you reach out that extra inch, the psychological payoff is instantaneous. It's a dopamine hit you've created, a chance to see yourself as limitless, a re-formatting of what's possible. Sometimes life looks like a string of grudging concessions to mediocrity: people giving in to the "inevitable," whether it's a safe job or a wrecked body. What if you could step outside this slipstream, by recognizing how crucial it is to constantly be growing, to always try?
The tough part about all of this is: we do try, all day long. We get up when the alarm clock shrills, we turn in our reports, we feed our children. It's exhausting, being an adult human. Where do we get the energy to pour into personal growth?
From just doing it, that very first time. It sounds circular, because it really is: we put in a little energy, and the excitement and health and self-love that comes from that first small success creates more energy. The only true input is that very first attempt; the rest of the process is mostly self-sustaining. So, in a real sense, that initial effort is the achievement.
All of this is to say: we're a results-oriented culture, but we can choose to revere effort just as much as its end product. We need positive feedback at the very beginning of a process, because that's where the energy gap exists. You'll get to a healthy weight if you make it through the training program, so let us cheer you on for showing up for that first class. Your friend will be brave enough to take her dream job if she gets an interview, so we let's celebrate her sending out her resume. We have to try, because the small hurdle of that first effort is all that stands between us and real growth. Let's be that fire-starter for each other. Let's be the push someone else needs this week, to leap off whatever cliff they've been gazing at from far away, for far too long.
Maybe that push is a long-awaited phone call or a gym date. If you want to send a little present, you can download our new ebook for 50% off with the code ENERGY at checkout, or order a 10-pack of classes for $120 with the code INSIDER. Whatever you choose, be aware that you're doing something crucial: acting to create a life of growth for yourself and your people. Seriously: bravo.
You want to know the thing I do everyday that terrifies me most? I open a word document. But this is what I know to be true: committing to the simple act of opening that document (AND THEN CELEBRATING THAT SMALL SUCCESS) is changing my life. And every time I open it, it becomes easier to open, and I slowly chip away at that fear. Effort is a thing to be celebrated--and it is a practice or a can be made a habit as much as anything else.
Cheers to Julie for celebrating our bodies and efforts and changing the way we think about what we look like and how we move. I'm humbled to call her a friend.